Daeg Faerch, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Brad Dourif
Director: Rob Zombie
ALSO: Be sure to check out our interview with director Rob Zombie.
When it was announced that heavy metal rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie would be helming the next “Halloween,” the horror community was abuzz with speculation as to where exactly it would fall within the timeline of the previous eight films. Would it be yet another uninspired sequel, or was Zombie eyeing a complete reboot of the franchise á la “Casino Royale”? Of course, now that we know that the latest “Halloween” is indeed a remake of the classic John Carpenter film, the question on everyone’s mind is if it's any good?
Let me begin by saying that while I’m not a particularly big fan of the original, I respect what the film means to the genre. It single-handedly launched a cinematic movement that transformed horror movies into box office blockbusters (practically overnight) and led to the production of other popular series like “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Simply put, the film deserves all the credit it’s received over the years, and though it doesn’t necessarily hold up to today’s standards of what makes a great horror movie, the idea of someone like Zombie meddling with it is enough to drive even the most neutral observer a little crazy. And for good reason, too. Not only is Zombie’s version just as unimaginative as every other “Halloween” sequel, but it’s a total abomination of the original story, to the point that it wouldn’t surprise me if Zombie used copies of the original Carpenter script to wipe his ass on a daily basis.
Unlike the original film – which opened with a first-person shot of little Michael Myers’ murder of his older sister on Halloween night – the new edition takes its good old time building to the inevitable. It’s still Halloween and Michael (Daeg Faerch) is still a closet lunatic, but this time around, he’s the son of a stripper (Sheri Moon Zombie) living in a rundown house with his two sisters and his mother’s new white-trash husband (William Forsythe). When he’s not being verbally abused by his family, Michael is bullied at school, tortures small animals for fun, and parades around town wearing a 99-cent clown mask.
After returning from a lonely night of trick-r-treating, Michael does the unthinkable: he bounds his stepdad with duct tape and slits his throat, stabs his older sister with a kitchen knife 17 times, and bashes in the head of her hippie boyfriend with an aluminum baseball bat. Arrested for murder and taken to an asylum run by the incomparable Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael splits his time between psychiatric evaluation and solitary confinement until one day – 15 years later – he escapes. Completely transformed from a four-foot nothing squirt into a six-foot-eight behemoth, Michael heads back to his hometown to track down his baby sister, Laurie (Scout-Taylor Compton), and finish what he started.
The fact that Zombie doesn’t even remotely try to emulate Carpenter’s film is a bit disturbing in its own right, but when coupled with the idea that he could do it better, well, that’s just plain ridiculous. And yet, with the exception of a handful of shots, Zombie’s version is entirely different from the original. This might be considered a godsend to fans of the film after what Gus Van Sant did with his shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho,” but when you consider the damage he’s inflicting to the legacy of the Myers character, it’s still worth getting upset about. Zombie has either never seen the most recent Hannibal Lecter flick or he thought it was absolutely brilliant, because he includes the same sort of tedious backstory that turned Lecter into a tragic hero. Granted, Michael Myers isn’t quite as complex of a character as the flesh-eating doctor, but does Zombie really think he’s going to earn sympathy for his murderous protagonist by playing Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” while Michael sits alone on Halloween night? The kid’s a killer, straight and simple, and no amount of character development is going to convince the audience otherwise.
Unfortunately, Zombie can’t help but exude his fascination for the horror icon, and that seems to be the biggest problem surrounding “Halloween.” While Laurie (as played by Jamie Lee Curtis) was the true protagonist of the original film, it takes nearly an hour before we’re finally introduced to Taylor-Scout Compton. By then, the audience doesn’t want to invest the time in bonding with another main character, and as a result, she’s relegated to playing the role of the lead victim. Sure, that means she doesn’t have to strip down to her skivvies like all of the other female players, but it’s quite a demotion nonetheless.
It’s a shame, since the young actress is actually a great Laurie. In fact, the casting of Compton might just be the one thing Zombie actually did right on the project, but it hardly matters considering he does so many other things wrong. The suspense is considerably dialed down (if only because there’s no room for it by the time Michael returns as an adult), the violence drastically increased (did you know only four people died in the original?), and McDowell’s role as Loomis (though substantially more involved than when Donald Pleasence played him) is an insult to the actor’s talents. The same goes for Carpenter, but it’s an insult of a completely different kind. Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” might have its merits when viewed as a simple horror film, but as a movie based on a pre-existing property, it’s nothing short of a travesty.
Two-Disc Unrated Director's Cut DVD Review:
I’m not sure Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween” needed a two-disc release, but the Weinsteins did. In fact, it seems like a total waste of resources to produce so many extras for this special edition DVD and completely ignore more worthy titles. Still, while the unrated director’s cut of the film is even worse (read: longer) than the theatrical release, the commentary with writer/director Zombie proves that he does know what he’s doing behind the camera. The included alternate ending and deleted scenes are just more of the same, while the 10-minute blooper reel feels remarkably out of place. It’s worth noting, however, that said blooper reel does reveal one thing: Malcolm McDowell is certifiably bonkers. The rest of the extras include a making-of featurette (“Re-Imagining Halloween”), a short look at mask conception (“The Many Masks of Michael Myers”), a casting featurette (“Meet the Cast”) and Scout Taylor-Compton’s screen test.